For reasons I am no longer clear on at all, I wanted to see The Gallows when it was in theatres this Summer. I went back just now and watched the trailer and I have absolutely no clue what I saw in this originally. It looks like a painfully generic found footage movie. Nothing special. Thankfully it was out of theatres so fast I never got the chance to see it. I can’t imagine a scenario where I watched this without the ability to make the Playstation 4 run it at 1.5x speed to get it over with faster.
The Gallows opens effectively enough. We are watching the footage of a filmed high school play. It looks as terrible as you would imagine a high school play would look, when suddenly an actor on stage, whose character is about to be hanged, is killed for real when the play’s gallows prop malfunctions. Is it completely ridiculous that a high school production would have a fully functional gallows set-up? Oh my god yes, but it’s the kind of ridiculous I can get behind. Actually the very end is quite goofy as well. So the movie is bookended by some enjoyable dopiness but everything in between those scenes varies from “excruciating” to “painfully excruciating”.
Naturally after a student dies in front of a huge crowd, the play (also titled “The Gallows”) is no longer being performed at this school. Until now! After…20 years maybe…the play is finally going to be performed again. However the star of the play, whose name I am not looking up because this movie isn’t getting any more of my time than ended, isn’t too into the idea of actually performing. He’s only really there because he has a crush on the leading lady. So he and his friends decide the only logical action is to break into the school the night before the show and destroy the set so the play can’t go on. I think also he plans to comfort the main girl to get closer to her as she is really excited to do the play. Great foundation for a relationship. Anyway once they break into the school magic nooses start killing them. It’s dumb.
A key element to any found footage movie is having a likable character behind the camera. This is the surrogate for the audience who guides us through the action and is a constant presence at all time so they better not be a chore to deal with. I know a lot of people weren’t huge fans of Hud in Cloverfield but I thought that was one of the better examples as most movies fail at this task. The Gallows is definitely the most spectacular failure.
Our man behind the camera is Ryan and he is one of the worst characters ever barfed out by any movie in any genre. He’s documenting the whole thing for reasons that are never clarified, or at least I don’t remember them being clarified. This guy is horrible. The first 40 minutes of this movie is him being the worst human being imaginable. He hates the drama class (it’s a mandatory class) and is constantly belittling his friend for being in it. He harshly mocks everybody around him, always calling everyone “drama nerds” and occasionally throwing footballs and hitting them in the head. Oh also there’s a moment where he films the girls in the class and calls them all ugly. Our lead everyone! He also thinks he’s hilarious so that makes it at least 100 times worse to listen to.
I can’t believe they actually thought this was a likable lead character. I thought maybe the idea was to make him purposely the worst so that you are satisfied when he gets murdered later. I don’t think so though. I tried to watch the gag reel included here (couldn’t even finish) and based on the general atmosphere there, I think they truly believed they were giving us a funny, entertaining dude and it makes me sad that people out there in the world will likely agree with them. I eventually had to fast forward chunks of this opening because I absolutely could not deal with how brutally unfunny this guy was and he never, EVER, stops talking.
The one saving grace (SPOILERS COMING) is that once they break into the school and the supernatural happenings begin, Ryan is the first to go. It isn’t satisfying though. His death is largely off screen and after what he put us through in that first half, that isn’t good enough.
Not that the other characters are a whole lot better. I mean the friend I guess is fine, he’s just bland. Same goes for Ryan’s girlfriend, although I hate her on principle because Ryan should not be allowed a girlfriend or any form of happiness. The one kind of likable character is the lead actress in the play and, of course, she is hated by the rest of them. I’m not sure why. The only thing we really see her do in the early scenes is graciously thank everyone for helping make the play a reality as it has been a dream of hers forever. God, what a bitch huh?
Some of this could be redeemed if the latter half of the movie was at all scary. It is not. The jump scares are predicable, the suspense is largely boring and the villain is lame. The deaths are also all largely the same with almost zero build-up and no shock value whatsoever. It’s certainly a leap in the right direction from the first half but instead of being an intolerable comedy, it becomes boring horror. It’s not a great trade.
The Gallows is terrible. Were it not for this marathon I wouldn’t have made it past that first half. The Ryan character is so grating that it actively depresses me that people could enjoy his antics or worse, that people like him exist in the real world. Nobody surrounding him fares much better and the horror elements are not executed well either. This movie has no real reason to exist, except to make me realize whenever a found footage movie is poor, that it could be worse. It could be The Gallows.